Friday, June 3, 2016

Floriat Birmingham - Three Snowhill

These are great days for Birmingham with many initiatives underway, including the largest ever speculative office building outside London now on site. We are proud to have masterplanned and designed the infrastructure and three buildings at Ballymore’s Snowhill over the last fifteen years, culminating in the third building which will provide 360,000ft2 of office space as well as 30,000ft2 of retail and leisure facilities. The development has already significantly helped to regenerate this key area of the city and create links between the existing business district and the Gun and Jewellery Quarters to the north. It has also opened up the eastern zone and will now become part of the Birmingham ‘Big City Plan’.

The go ahead for our Snowhill 3 has been promoted by George Osborne recently as an exemplar to the regions in redefining the economic map of the UK:

‘We want to make the Midlands Britain’s engine for growth and this landmark will play an important part’ he said ‘The resulting space will play home to businesses with thousands of valuable jobs right in the heart of the Midlands – a vital step in us rebalancing the economy in Britain’.

There is still much to be done – but the emerging success of projects such as Snowhill – already including tenants such as Barclays; KPMG; Gowling WLG and HS2, -  that deliver excellent value and returns for investors outside London, is something we hope to be part of for years to come.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Our Birmingham Journey

Sidell Gibson were appointed by Railtrack some fifteen years ago to prepare a master plan for Snowhill (Phase 1 and 2, Phase 3)  - on studying the area we were excited by the prospect of creating pedestrian routes through a variety of neighbourhoods including the historic gun and jewellery quarters.
Working with Ballymore Properties we have now completed the design for the whole estate,  the first two buildings are occupied by global companies. The last (and largest) is about to start on site. The Metro tramline which forms an integral part of the master plan is now running and enhances the vibrancy of the new public realm.
In helping to create this necklace of linked neighbourhoods Snowhill - and Birmingham in general, is emerging as a viable alternative to London;

"Birmingham is now competing on a global scale for investment, talent and tourism, rivalling not just London but cities across Europe and beyond"
Deloitte Senior Partner - Birmingham Post

We are proud to have been an integral part of Birmingham's "Big City Plan", though of course without Birmingham's planning authorities and their 'can do' and 'will do' approach none of this would have been possible.
The challenge with Snowhill now is how to further utilise this remarkable location - this vibrant confluence of road, Metro, rail and gateway to the city.
Looking at the larger site and the station there is an opportunity for a grand master plan for the whole Snowhill area - with HS2 hoving into view the opportunity is very real and must be realised soon - our work in Snowhill is only the beginning -

“The Snow Hill Master plan provides a bold and exciting proposal for how Birmingham can continue to grow its thriving business and professional services sector. With time, we want the city to replicate the success of Canary Wharf, with areas like the Snow Hill district forming the cornerstone of this vision."

 Sir Albert Bore, Leader of Birmingham City Council – Marketing Birmingham

Friday, October 30, 2015

Designing better futures..and endings

One of the absolute certainties of life is ageing, and is it not true that many of us leave it too late to understand the process until we are faced with it either personally or with a member of our family?

This country finds itself facing an exponential increase in the need for provision of age related accommodation, assisted living or end of life and palliative care, over the next 25 years the number of over 60’s is projected to increase by 7 million (Office of National Statistics 2015) This fact, alongside the fact that homeowners over 65 in England and Wales have £611 billion of equity locked in their property points to the fact that, with local government partnerships, there is a financial matrix here that could deliver new  long term, community based later life and palliative care typologies . The old model of government care homes increasingly does not work – collaborations between the individual, developers and local authorities is a route worth exploring.

As the Housing & Community Agency has said – “Housing our ageing population in high quality homes within great places is central to delivering sustainable development through good design”  -  HAPPI – Housing our Aging Population

Why is it that we are we so impoverished in this field?  Why are we and our politicians not addressing this tsunami of need for communities within the community rather than at one remove.  In developing schemes we are obliged to provide affordable and key worker housing, why is there less emphasis on what can be commercially viable end of life provision?  Indications are that we are lagging behind our Northern European counterparts.

Part of our work over the past 40 years has been in this sector, along fairly conventional retirement schemes throughout the UK – the experience has led us to think about new typologies for senior living within communities rather than isolated in gated communities (an example from the Netherlands -  – much research is being conducted in this field with extensive research and development being conducted by amongst others - : Innovage Project, Casa Europe, Coral Europe.

As life unwinds, surely the optimum must be the opportunity to merely move through the varying elements of a community, from independent living, to retirement to palliative care, without sacrificing friendships, familiarity of place and memories………

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Agility is the new black

Welcome to the first of a series of thought provoking essays from the team at Sidell Gibson. In this series we hope to question, challenge and inspire those of us working in the creative industries. Whilst focusing on various subjects close to our heart, we will look to see how our past experiences, re-evaluated in the context of today's reality, can shape the future.

There have been many challenges faced by the industry during this recent economic downturn. The ability for companies to weather the storm and now to thrive once again requires agility and being able to adapt to different circumstances, the development of new strategies, ways of working and the forming of new allegiances. 

Our own adventure is no exception. Even after 40 years’ experience delivering a broad range of complex projects in the UK and abroad, the last downward trajectory in the economic cycle proved challenging to say the least.

For us, the way forward has been to forge a new relationship with a group of practices, enabling us to reap the benefits of shared resources, specialist expertise and facilities.   This new collaborative structure has been fundamental in enabling the practice to grow again, reinvigorating the office at all levels.  

The key to this continued success in the current economic climate is our new agility. Agility for us means creating flexible teams and resource structures that put the project and client at the centre of everything we do. At the same time it has been important not to lose sight of the principles and design approach that clients have associated with us over many years. Change may have occurred throughout the organisation, but it is this continuity of our culture, that we believe has been a significant factor behind their continued patronage. 

Of course the constant in all of this is the work – and this gets better and better – the teams involved in the projects are better, clients are better, technology is better, materials are better – we hope this is just the start of a new upward cycle – being intelligently agile will enable us to enjoy the ride.